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Forests: New CU-Boulder study shows nuances in tree-killing pine beetle epidemic

Lodgepole pines killed by beetles stand silhoutted against the evening sky in Summit County, Colorado.

Lodgepole pines killed by beetles stand silhoutted against the evening sky in Summit County, Colorado.

Smooth-barked trees better able to repel insects

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Lodgepole and ponderosa pines with smoother bark may be better at repelling tree-killing bugs, according to Boulder-based researchers with the University of Colorado.

The new findings may help forest managers as they plan logging projects, especially in areas where there is a need to protect high-value trees — in developed recreation areas or on private property.

The study was published online in the journal Functional Ecology. While the current pine beetle epidemic has slowed dramatically in many areas, it wiped out millions of trees across 3.4 million acres since 1996. Continue reading

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Canadian researchers seek effective pine beetle bait

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Beetle-killed lodgepole pines in Summit County, Colorado.

Tracking pheromones may help resource managers slow the spread of infestation

By Summit Voice

*Read extensive coverage of mountain pine beetle and fores health at this Summit Voice link

FRISCO — While the mountain pine beetle epidemic has waned in most Colorado forests, the tiny insects are still killing huge swaths of trees in Canada, where researchers say they may be close finding an effective bait.

The University of Alberta scientists  say their results may enable forest managers to get ahead of the destructive spread of mountain pine beetle, which is now killing not only lodgepole pine forests, but jack pine. Continue reading

Forests: Canadian scientists decode pine beetle genome

Mountain Pine Beetle. Photo by: Ward Strong, B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations

Mountain Pine Beetle. Photo courtesy Ward Strong, B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations.

Findings may help forest managers control outbreaks

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Scientists who recently completed decoding the pine beetle genome say their findings could help forest managers develop ways to manage the epidemic in the future.

“We know a lot about what the beetles do,” said Christopher Keeling, a research associate at Canada’s Michael Smith Laboratories. “But without the genome, we don’t know exactly how they do it.” Continue reading

Colorado foresters say no need to spray for pine beetles

Local company continue to offer spraying services, saying some property owners would rather be safe than sorry

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Pine beetle populations have dropped to the lowest level in 30 years in parts of the Colorado high country. Bob Berwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — While some local property owners report that they’re getting advertisements from local tree spraying companies about protecting lodgepole pines from mountain pine beetles, state officials say there’s no need to apply pesticides this year.

“Mountain pine beetle numbers are the lowest they’ve been in 30 years,” said Ron Cousineau, district state forester for the area covering Summit and Grand counties. “The mountain pine beetle population has crashed … spraying has to be based on an actual threat,” he said. “The current population of pine beetles does not warrant spraying.”

Essentially, the bugs have killed most of the available trees. With very few brood trees remaining, beetle populations aren’t likely to reach epidemic levels again anytime soon. The latest forest surveys showed pine beetle activity on only about 200 acres in Summit County last year, with only a few pockets of trees within those areas affected by the beetles. Continue reading

Study: Colorado forests not doomed

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New dawn for Colorado’s beetle-killed forests.

Intensive research shows vigorous regrowth in beetle-killed tracts

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — After years of uncertainty over the future of Colorado’s forest landscapes, a new study by U.S. Forest Service scientists puts the recent pine epidemic into perspective.

The insect outbreak ultimately will result in more diverse and resilient forests in the long run, adding structural complexity and species diversity, researchers with the USFS Rocky Mountain Research Station concluded after carefully monitoring regrowth in beetle-killed stands.

New growth is surging under the dying lodgepole canopy with the vertical growth rate of lodgepole and fir doubling in beetle-killed areas that were left untreated after the epidemic. Harvested stands also showed strong lodgepole regrowth, with aspen gaining ground in some places.

“Forests come and go … It’s not a crisis, but this was an amazing synchronism,” Forest Service biogeochemist Chuck Rhoades said of the massive pine beetle outbreak that will alter the forest landscape of the Southern Rockies for generations to come.

The bugs swarmed across vast swaths of the Canadian Rockies; they’ve invaded the Front Range and moved east to the Dakotas, especially the forests of the Black Hills.

“This event is not over, but the fear part should be over,” said Rhoades, who, with a team of researchers from the Fort Collins-based Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, has been carefully studying regeneration in beetle-killed areas. “But the idea of forest health and maintaining forest ecosystem processes is something we’ll always be thinking about,” he said. Continue reading

Colorado: Dead forests could affect the weather

Beetle-killed areas could have an effect on localized thunderstorm formation and precipitation

Pine beetles killed tens of thousands of acres of trees. Could that affect local weather patterns? Some researchers think it might.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Researchers who set out to study whether deforestation on the slopes of Kilimanjaro is affecting the mountain’s ice cap concluded that large-scale climate changes have much more of an impact on the glaciers. But they also documented that clear-cutting the mountain’s forests is having a distinct effect on precipitation at the mid-level elevations, where rainfall has been reduced.

The findings could have implications for Colorado, where some forest landscapes are experiencing wholesale changes after the pine beetle epidemic. Both scientists said that, depending on the scale of changes in Colorado and the rest of the region affected by the outbreak, the changes in land cover could have an effect on summer rains by changing the amount of moisture available for convection in the lower atmosphere.

After reading about the Kilimanjaro research, I corresponded with two scientists who have studied how land-use changes can affect mesoscale weather, including Thomas Mölg (University of Innsbruck, Austria), who conducted the study at Kilimanjaro, and Roger Pielke, Sr., of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES). Continue reading

South Dakota gets $3 million for bark beetle fight

In the Needles District of South Dakota's Black Hills.

Most of the money aimed at removing hazard trees

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Gov. Dennis Daugaard and the U.S. Forest Service last week announced $3 million in cooperative federal grants for community assistance, bark beetle, and forest health needs in South Dakota.

The federal grant awards complement Gov. Daugaard’s recently announced Black Hills Forest Initiative, which includes a commitment of $1 million annually for the next three years to implement bark beetle control efforts. The  federal funding is aimed at addressing the significant fire and forest health threats arising from dead and dying bark beetle trees across South Dakota.

“To beat the beetles, we need to work together,” said Gov. Daugaard. “The Forest Service has stepped up with these new grants, which together with state funds, will make a difference in controlling this epidemic.” Continue reading

Summit County: Forest health groups pow-wow in Frisco

Red, dead forests now prevail across much of Summit County, as government and industry officials try to make the most of the aftermath.

Groups will offer updates on statewide and regional forest health plans and strategies

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Federal and state agencies have developed an elaborate and sometimes overlapping bureaucratic superstructure and spent millions of dollars to try and deal with impacts of the tiny bark beetles that are chewing their way through the region’s forests and re-setting the ecosystem clock, as it were.

This week, three of the most prominent forest health organizations will be represented at the July 14 Summit Forest Health Task Force meeting in Frisco — the Colorado Bark Beetle Cooperative, TheFront Range Roundtable and the Governor’s Forest Health Advisory Council.

The three groups will provide an update on their activities at the meeting, scheduled from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. at the Frisco Community Center at Third Avenue South and Granite Street in Frisco. Continue reading

Summit County: Expert panel eyes future forest health

June 30 meeting will address emerging impacts to Colorado’s mountain forests

What will our future forests look like? A panel of experts will discuss the question at the June 30 Summit County Forest Health Task Force luncheon.

SUMMIT COUNTY — This week’s luncheon meeting (June 30) of the Summit County Forest Health Task Force will focus on how to optimize future forest conditions with the limited resources available to land managers.

A panel of forest experts and ecologists will discuss what kind of forest management practices are under discussion to address emerging human and climate impacts on high-altitude forests in Colorado.

The meeting is from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Spencer’s Restaurant at the Beaver Run Conference Center in Breckenridge. The buffet lunch costs $11 per person. Confirm attendance with Howard Hallman via email at future1946@yahoo.com. Continue reading

Colorado: Gov. Hickenlooper will tour Summit forests

Young trees like these lodgepoles at the Old Dillon Reservoir trailhead, are now being killed by bark beetles.

State, federal foresters will lead site visit to local forest health treatment areas; public access limited because of potential safety concerns

By Bob Berwyn

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to reflect that the tour is NOT open to the public because of safety concerns.

SUMMIT COUNTY — Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper will be in Summit County March 30 to visit a couple of sites where collaborative forest treatments have reduced the risk to municipal water supplies and to residential areas.

Along with U.S. Forest Service rangers and local officials, Hickenlooper will tour the Straight Creek watershed protection project, a collaborative effort by the Town of Dillon, Dillon Valley Water, Denver Water, the U.S. Forest Service, the Colorado State Forest Service and private stakeholders.

Read this Summit Voice story to learn what types of trees are growing back in beetle-killed stands. Continue reading

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